INSOMNIA

Super Time Force (2014, ONE)

By Alex Kierkegaard / May 30, 2014


This game is really something. I've played some pretty shitty games since starting my crusade against the "indie" bums in May 2009 with my trailblazing World of Goo review (anyone remember that one? I bet even its designers don't, pseudoawards and all, and the only reason I do is because I had to force myself to review it!), but this one takes the cake. It is an utter clusterfuck. Worst fucking game ever! Or at least that I have played! Didn't even manage to get past the tutorial! You think I am exaggerating? Very well, let me break it down for you then, so you can understand me.
   This is a side-view action game which allows you to rewind time and generate new versions of yourself to fight alongside your ghosts which have just died. In the little of the game that I got to see you get to have as many as THIRTY characters (out of a choice of initially three, with more unlocked later) on the screen at once, if you so desire. What's interesting to note is that the action becomes IMPOSSIBLE TO FOLLOW after you've pulled out of your ass about five or six characters or so. And this if all of them are merely shooting; if you actually take the trouble to utilize their special skills (one of them is a sniper, the other a shield guy, etc.) I suspect you'd hit sensory overload much quicker. It doesn't help that explosions and such of even popcorn enemies are loud and showy with little bits and pieces flying everywhere, but when you add even five or ten player sprites all doing their own thing the onscreen result is the most hilarious spectacle in the history of videogames as far as I am concerned. Utterly unintelligible chaos that's worth experiencing to realize the sheer ignorance and tastelessness that the entire "indie" scene is wallowing in. And not the good kind of chaos seen in the Japanese bullet hell games that the devs would love to have you believe their game has borrowed from (which, if you know anything about those games, you'd realize there's no chaos at all in them — there merely APPEARS to be in the eyes of those WHO CAN'T PLAY THESE GAMES), but the bad kind of chaos, the kind of chaos that can be seen, for example, in the euroshmups of the '90s (or in poor Western arcade attempts such as Williams's Narc), but which here approaches previously unimaginable heights that will inspire in you something approaching reverence. Can YOU fuck up game design this bad? I really fucking doubt it! To be this bad takes ages! More precisely, it takes a decade of tens of thousands of scrawny, unshaven douchebags banging away on keyboards in primitive game making apps!

   Now one might point out that you don't really NEED thirty characters on screen to finish this game, and that you can usually just get by with a couple of them, or three or four or five or whatever. Well, first off, I wouldn't know because I stopped playing at that part of the tutorial immediately after they've taught you the controls. At that point you get your first chance at a full blown portion of a stage, and that's where I quit because I couldn't take it. But I skimmed a developer demonstration video, and the game seems to go down pretty much as I imagined that it would. Namely, the game for the most part seems to be perfectly doable with a SINGLE character (and they even hint at that in the demonstration), but the developer was rewinding time like crazy every five seconds and pulling out as many character as he could... simply because he could. They are trying to market it as a tactics-action title ("single-player co-op", as all the sites oxymoronically call it, not being able to tell the difference between the player and the avatar, like all subhumans who try to parse modern art), a thinking man's run & gun, but the tools they give you are so crazily overpowered that any problem seems to be solvable immediately by just pulling a couple extra characters out of your ass and just brute-forcing everything. And even if there ARE sections somewhere down the line that have been carefully planned to FORCE you to utilize your absurdly overpowered resources to the max to pass them (which I extremely doubt! it'd take a genius to create situations that fucking REQUIRED thirty fucking characters onscreen at once in a fucking sidescroller!) — guess what. I couldn't give less of a shit because trying to turn a side-view action game into a puzzle game is A DUMB AS FUCK IDEA. The ENTIRE POINT of the side-view action genre is to get away from the abstract shapes and ping pong balls bouncing around of early videogames (which is part of what the "action" means in the genre's name, fyi), and the LAST THING I am looking for in this genre after decades of evolution is to go back to the boring ass puzzle mechanics that Green Beret and the like WERE TRYING TO GET AWAY FROM IN 1985. Hooray for "innovation"! But that's what happens when you are an utter imbecile who was born yesterday and has never played a real game.
   Let me rephrase this so you retards can have a chance to understand it: Solving puzzles in what is effectively (because of your dumbass mechanics) an eternal pause state is simply NOWHERE NEAR AS MUCH FUN as being a lone commando on a suicide mission against an entire army that takes place in real time. Have you ever seen an action movie in which the hero just pauses the action every five seconds and makes as many copies of himself as he wants to take out his opponents who simply don't stand a fucking chance against him? No, you haven't, and that's because even "indie" movie directors are not as dumb as "indie" game makers (and for the reasons I have described at length in my Genealogy). This is in fact the same problem that Ikaruga, another crypto-puzzle game, also faced, as many other games in highly evolved genres are facing today because of the issues I have analyzed at length in my scoring essay (and will be analyzing even further in Videogame Culture: Volume II if I can ever bring myself to finish it and release it), but the solution, difficult as it is, lies in going forward in the same direction that the genre has ALWAYS been going, as Konami's and Arc System Works' Hard Corps: Uprising did with passion, not back to the beginning, like the clueless bums who managed to trick Microsoft into funding their absurdly abortive efforts. And even Ikaruga, which failed to eschew altogether the puzzle route that is the easy way out of the problem of complexifying already highly evolved genres, at least had properly devised challenges and awesome aesthetics with which to draw you in, despite the anti-immersive effect of the puzzle aspects, but this pile of shit has neither. It is not only the stupidest game I have ever played, mechanically (which even Wikipedia's editors managed to realize, pointing out that "improving at the game meant dying less and therefore using the ghost players (the core mechanics) less", instead of more, as in a proper game), but also among the ugliest, and I don't think I am exaggerating. Some of the protagonist sprites are inoffensively bad or even mediocre, but all the enemies I have seen are hands down the ugliest sprites ever! As if it's not enough that the artwork's native resolution is like 100x100 blown up to 720p, the artists seem to have given up even using these 100x100 pixels to their full extent, and have drawn entire enemy vehicles by just slapping together five or six huge squares or rectangles, and with terrible color coordination to boot, while popcorn enemies are amorphous blobs made up of mere randomly placed dot collections! And this vomit-inducing monstrosity, this sheer insult to the intelligence and taste of the lovers of an entire artform which would have been rejected — there is no doubt about that — for publication on the Mega Drive and Super Famicom consoles 25 years ago, is on the Xbox One 8-core 1.33 TeraFLOP eighth-generation console system, proudly proclaiming Microsoft Game Studios as its publisher on the very first screen!
   I have no words...

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